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Posts Tagged ‘branding’

Could Your Company Use a Brand Makeover?

November 17th, 2010 4 comments

Hendrik Goltzius - "Icarus"

To err is human, to forgive, divine. –Alexander Pope

But on the other hand, so is perfection, which is why we seek it.

Mistakes. We all make them. And yet, when it comes to business transactions, it seems fair to say that there are very few of us who have either the time or patience to forgive them more than a time or two. Nearly everywhere you look, there is a fierce competitor chasing at the heels of any given brand. We live in a world in which Better-Faster-Cheaper-Smarter is usually king. That said, there are still plenty of people who settle for “pretty good,” a good deal of the time, or who will put up with something unpleasant in exchange for something desirable; e.g., lousy service for killer product. Nevertheless, the same rule applies (and I’ll throw in another word): Better-Faster-Cheaper-Smarter-Nicer beats Better-Faster-Cheaper-Smarter. Dig it?

Think of it this way: Joe sells coffee drinks. So does Steve. Both Steve and Joe brew good coffee. They both brew it in a timely fashion. But sometimes Joe forgets what kind of milk you asked for. Sometimes he uses the sugar-free vanilla (and you hate that stuff). And sometimes (and this is the killer) he only gives you one shot of espresso. You need two (you would have gone back for another, but heck, you’re already on the freeway). You like Joe, but in the end, you gotta go with Steve. He pretty much gets your drink right every time. And hey, if he messes up once in a blue moon, you can forgive him… plus, he’s a good guy.

Great service starts with the way customers are greeted when they enter the door, or call on the phone… or order via the catalog. A company’s brand amounts to the perception the consumer takes away from each and every interaction he or she has with your company.

SIGNS YOUR BRAND COULD BE DUE FOR A TUNE UP

Your company’s teams/departments are disconnected.

The left hand is moving, but the brain didn’t tell it to, and the right hand is in another world, entirely. Something is fishy, here. Everyone needs to be on the same page. What does this mean? Two words: “Tight Ship.” You have a crew and a mission. Everyone on your crew has a particular responsibility, and each member knows what that responsibility is and why it needs to be done. At the same time, each crew member is marching to the tune of the mission, because each one understands that he or she will benefit from the greater goal. Does this mean that individual strengths and talents should be dismissed? No. On the contrary, great teams are great because of individual strengths; not despite them.

No one in the company knows what the mission is.

How can this result in anything but certain death? If no one in the company knows what your company’s mission is, then that is as good as not having one. Furthermore, making a profit is not a mission; rather, it is what happens when the group works to achieve something more meaningful to all who participate. Great companies attract great people because they essentially wear their mission like an armband. Potential employees know the mission before they are brought on board. Team members are fiercely proud of it because they helped build it, and it rocks. It doesn’t sorta rock. It doesn’t kinda roll. It brings the house down every time. And the team then says, “That’s how we roll.” That is the essence of what makes a great brand, and when you have a great brand, you have a great company.

The company has a mission (sort of), but isn’t really sticking to its plan, and team members are not engaged.

You have goals. You have plans. But if you were to ask your team members what the plan is, aside from moving pile A from tray 1 to tray 2… would they know? In other words, do they know why they are doing what they are doing, and how it will help to improve things? If the answer is no, then you may have a problem, Houston. Still, you might be thinking, “Every company needs cogs, and lots of cogs don’t mind being cogs.” Well… maybe… but… did you ever ask them? Because here’s the thing: statistics vary, but reports indicate that the percentage of employees who are disengaged is anywhere from 54 to 75%. While you may or may not find such numbers to be shocking, you can bet your bottom dollar that disengagement costs employers plenty. If your troops on the front line ( the people who are the first point of contact with your customers) are thinking about how much they don’t want to be there, then you could be sitting on a house of cards. Communication is key.

The Tell-Tale Sign of the Health of Your Business: How Healthy Is your Customer Service Team?

Your CSRs are working harder than all other teams in the company. Their work is never done, and the bulk of it is issuing credits and processing returns. Why are there so many returns? Perhaps it’s a quality control issue. Maybe your company designs coveted handbags. One of the inside zippers is broken on approximately 50% of them, but you don’t know this yet. You won’t know it until they reach your customers, and then they call customer service to complain. If your CSR is able to save the sale, you will likely keep your customer. That’s the good news. Complainers are loyal, so long as you solve the problem. According to most reports, approximately 90% do not bother to complain. They simply don’t return. So is good quality control part of good service? Of course it is. When things are going smoothly, Customer Service can be used to up-sell to your customers, and to provide you with crucial feedback. On the flip side, when Customer Service is swimming in a sea of mistakes that need to be fixed, they are functioning as a bandage on a wound (reactive vs. proactive).

Less Stress = Better Health = More Time/Space to Be Creative.
Think of it. Things are busy, but the work is manageable, and your teams are happy and engaged. Ideas are flowing. This is what it feels like to be healthy.

So, to all you Harder-Better-Faster-Stronger CreativeBeasts, “Have a nice day.” And of course, SEIZE THE PREY.

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So You Wanna Be Fascinating?

March 20th, 2010 4 comments

A guide to help us discover how and why we fascinate, and how we may increase our own levels of fascination.

Fascinate by Sally Hogshead.

This book is quite a read, and, indeed; a fascinating one. You’ll want to chew and digest these words slowly, Creative Beasts, and perhaps finish with a taste of fine Cognac (which, by the way, would be appealing to the lust trigger–and trust, because we know it will provide comfort). In her book, Sally Hogshead takes us on the fascinating journey of fascination using a style that succinctly and playfully pulls every trigger as we go along. It boils down to this: The seven triggers of fascination are simply the tools we use to communicate and respond to one another, but by learning about how they work–and becoming aware of their nuances–we may adjust our methods and levels of use accordingly in order to better persuade and captivate our audience. You can almost think of it as learning the ways of the force.

Okay, well. Not exactly, perhaps. But perhaps not so disimilar either. “The Force” didn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere when Obi Wan introduced Luke to its ways. It was always there. Likewise; lust, mystique, power, alarm, prestige, trust and vice are all there being used by each of us in the ebb and flow of the tides in which we tweet, grin, wink, flash, flirt, yell, coo and/or whisper–with, to or at one another.

As it turns out, most of us want to be fascinating in some shape or form, according to the research–about sixty to seventy percent, depending on which group you’re looking at. Furthermore, each of us in our own unique way has something about us that is fascinating. Still, most of us would prefer our lives to be more fascinating than at present. Surprise, surprise. Ms. Hogshead describes the reasoning behind this current wave of mentality as one that streams from the A.D.D. world in which we live. We are constantly inundated with messages coming at us from multiple angles… messages that we find boring, either because there are too many, or perhaps simply because the messages, themselves, are lackluster and trite. We crave experiences that are genuine, alluring and comforting, but also thrilling, intoxicating and at times, even frightening. (Bungee jumping, anyone? That would be the alarm trigger.)

Who or what fascinates you and why?

In what ways would you like to be more fascinating?

In general, I, myself, am fascinated by creative people of all kinds–artists, writers, scientists, musicians, politicians, filmmakers, designers, architects, chefs and the list goes on.

One of my key groups of particular intrigue happens to be great journalists. They are often in the spotlight, yet their jobs entail and require aiming the focus at someone else… people like Charlie Rose, Terry Gross, Mike Wallace, Gwen Eiffel, Ira Glass and the late Peter Jennings, to name a few. The core values of journalism are based on trust.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on:

Journalism Ethics and Standards

While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability — as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.[3][4][5][6]

(And here’s the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and_standards)

Codes aside; to be a righteous player in this field requires high emotional intelligence, a deft approach to interaction on multiple levels, and one must walk some very fine lines. It seems that good journalists may just be some of the most adept at using more of the seven triggers than the rest. They need to be charming, but not overly so. They need to keep their subjects at a proper distance yet seduce them at the same time to gain the necessary level of intimacy, so we have all kinds of things going on here. There’s a certain amount of lust at stake. Notice how in many interviews a very carefully balanced level of flirting takes place. This brings the subject closer and helps in developing a rapport. Here’s 60 Minutes’ well-seasoned Bob Simon interviewing Bollywood’s lovely princess, Aishwarya Rai back in 2004. She at once gains the upper hand when she catches him blushing:

That brings us to another point, which is the power balance. The best in journalism get to interview the most fascinating people because they, themselves are forces to be reckoned with, and people of power are typically fascinated by other people of power (and they often seem to enjoy the opportunity to disseminate their messages to the masses). Here is another game that takes place, which is a challenge of wits, intelligence and at times; superiority. You’ll find interesting battles of wills when you listen to Terry Gross‘ recent interview with Karl Rove on NPR’s Fresh Air, regarding his latest memoir, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124597241

And finally, we have the queen bee of fascinating people, Ms. Barbara Walters. She uses her lust and mystique triggers very well. She displays her sweetness as she walks arm in arm with her subjects, but make no mistake; she is also a major lady of power who is well known for making even some of the toughest nuts to crack–cry. Could it be that some of us actually want to cry with Barbara Walters? Could this be a vice trigger? Hmm. Here she is interviewing Lady Gaga. She did not cry.

At times, the role of the journalist is similar to that of the psychologist. Boundaries and levels of comfort get tested and gently nudged to achieve desired objectives. Remember The Sixth Sense? In one of my favorite scenes, we see Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) and Cole (Haley Joel Osment) getting acquainted. “Wanna play a game?” Dr. Crowe asks Cole. “It’s a mind-reading game. Here’s how it works. I read your mind. If what I say is right, you take one step towards the chair. If what I say is wrong, you take one step back… towards the doorway. If you reach the chair, you sit down. If you reach the door, you can go. Wanna play?”

Dr. Crowe talks to Cole in the film, The Sixth Sense.

Perhaps if we’re each able to view our lives as more of a game with one of the goals being that we create rules as we go, we may find that our day to day exchanges will become more fascinating. By being aware of cues and making notes as well as recognizing our own signals, we may find that there is a fascinating Jedi as well as a “force” in us all.

By the way, have you taken the F-Score test yet? It’s quick, fun and enlightening. I dare you to do it!

Until next time, Creative Beasts… SEIZE THE PREY.

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I Have Not Yet Begun to Crush It.

January 12th, 2010 1 comment

The meek may inherit the Earth, but meanwhile, "The Determined" are gonna get theirs.

Pigeons… gotta love ’em. The cooing, the nesting, the foraging… and of course, the “bombing.” My Norwegian (step) grandmother said that when a pigeon poops on you, it’s good luck (she stated this after my mom had just been hit with a love-bomb from a feathered friend from above). I haven’t yet been able to confirm whether this is a Norwegian belief or one from somewhere else. If anyone can help me out with this, give a shout. I was once struck on the head by a pigeon-bomb, in the middle of downtown Milwaukee. It was a dove, actually. I was on the phone with a friend. It was a warm, sunny, early evening and I was standing beneath a tiny tree–newly planted, in fact. I had paused to chat–apparently under this little tree–and splat! Right on top of my head. I was surprised, of course, and of course, I reached up to find out what had hit me. I yelled out in disgust, and then I believe I started to cry a little. “Ahhhnnnnn! Come get me!” (it was my boyfriend) I exclaimed into the phone, looking up into the little tree. “A dove just shat on me!” He laughed, but then fortunately, he did come to get me. And the dove? It sat in the tree, a couple feet above me, cooing softly. “Jerk!” I thought. That was a few years ago. I’m still hoping for that good luck to come, but in the meantime, I aim to “Crush It!”

Just finished Gary Vaynerchuck’s book Why Now is the time to CRUSH IT! Cash In On Your Passion.

It took me a little longer than I thought it would, but hey, interruptions happen. Anyway. Great book, I really enjoyed it. Gary Vee is not just entertaining, as it turns out, nor is he simply driven. He’s an inspiring, thoughtful businessman and marketing strategist who looks well into the future to anticipate trends; all the while, keeping his eye on the ball. So what is Gary’s #1 strategy? CARE. That’s right. Care. Care about what you do, be authentic, be passionate, and let these things be your guiding lights. Here’s a rather recent appearance Gary made on CNBC:

If you pay a visit to Gary @ http://garyvaynerchuk.com/ you’ll see that quite a few folks giggle and scoff at old anchor-dude Dennis Kneale, who calls Gary “corny.” I get why the fans giggle and scoff, and I’m pretty sure I get why Dennis Kneale called him “corny.” The fans… well, it’s a couple reasons: A) just because they’re fans, they will always stick up for their guy and B) If they really know where Gary is coming from, then they truly know that he means what he says, but also that he’s right. Now, why did Kneale call Gary Vaynerchuk “a little corny?” I think it’s because he must be thinking, “Oh, now isn’t this cute and clever. Here’s Mr. 35-year old millionaire entrepreneur, telling everybody that all they need to do is care.” Obviously, he hadn’t yet read the book, because if he had, I don’t think he would have made a silly comment like that. Here’s the deal: Gary can explain in his book, exactly what he means by “caring,” and the thing is that it really isn’t any different from the approach taken by good old-fashioned great brands, all over the world. It is one thing to say that you care, but it is an altogether different thing to actually live it. What are some of the great caring brands of our times? How about Nordstrom? How about McDonalds? How about Starbucks? He says it boils down to the quality of the communication, and he’s right. “It’s about listening.” You listen, you give it your all, and you make adjustments when you need to. In his book, he recounts a retail story of a woman–a customer in New York–who called to complain that she didn’t get her wine shipment on time. It was December 22nd, and it was an older lady who was not a regular customer, a major buyer–or anything else major. What made her special was that she was a customer, plain and simple, and Gary knew that if he let her down… if her holiday got spoiled because it was too late to make a promise from FedEx… he would be letting himself down–and his team. So what did he do? He grabbed her case of White Zinfandel, threw it in his car, and drove it through a blizzard for three hours to her doorstep in Westchester, New York. Crazy? Maybe. Awesome customer service? You bet. He set the tone for his company that day, and that’s what leaders do. That’s how good brands get built. Really smart people understand this. I don’t know if it is still this way, simply because I don’t have the chance to visit Nordstrom much anymore (we don’t have them here), but the way I remember it, their service is legendary. If you needed something tailored and their tailor was out, the associate would run it to the next local tailor to have it done–and have it ready for the customer in the same day. OK, I’m kind of making that up, but stuff like that. No kidding.

Here’s a quick brand comparison story: And first, let me just say that I have for the most part, really gotten away from fast food. But one day at work a couple of years ago, I ran out for a burger. I thought to myself, “Hmm. Flame-broiled Whopper, Jr…” It had been a while since I had patronized a Burger King, but I was in the mood and I was pressed for time, so… fast food. I pulled up to the drive, and a girl answered, “Uhhhh, just a minute…”

I thought, “OK. Well, that’s weird because I’m the only one here.” But I waited a couple of minutes. Then I thought, “Hell with this,” and I pulled around and parked and went inside. What I found was a young manager yelling at several employees sitting at a table, telling them it was time to get back to work because they had already had breaks. There was one girl at the counter. I approached the counter, and waited for someone to say hello. No one did. Finally, I said, “Can someone here take my order?”

The girl at the counter said, “Just a second.”

I lost it. “You people are pathetic,” I said. “I went to the drive-thru and no one could help me. Now I’m inside and no one can help me. And there’s NOBODY f***ing here!” Yes, I said “f***ing.” Sorry I was foul-mouthed, but I was really amazed. They just stood there with their mouths open. I left, and went to McDonalds.

At the drive-thru speaker, the first thing the girl said was, “Thank you for waiting, can I take your order?” I was already thrilled. I ordered, and a couple of minutes later I was at the window receiving my meal. “Sorry about the wait!” She said with a smile.

“What wait?” I smiled back and thanked her and drove away. Fast and friendly service, napkins, ketchup, a sandwich, fries and a beverage with a straw–all the right temperatures and freshness… the birds were singing and weaving a happy little bird-dance around my car (just kidding)… I was a happy lass.

Looking back, I might have chosen a kinder way of addressing things with the folks at Burger King–I work at not getting upset these days, but anyway, it sure was an interesting juxtaposition of brands… To me, employees that give great customer service appear to be happy because they are happy. Generally, I look at this as a sign that they are treated well, but additionally, they are following good examples. They are taking ownership. These are all signs of a business that is being run properly and smartly.

Incidentally, I have worked at different companies throughout the years. I have worked at places who understand that good brands start from the top, but then are built from the bottom up (Starbucks is one of them), and then I’ve worked at companies that have had a different approach. The different approach was one that was unfortunately centered around money and the making of it. There was nothing wrong with the initial idea: sell a commodity–something everybody needs. (Heck, that’s what Starbucks does–well, OK, so we don’t actually need coffee, but you understand.) The problems began when corners got cut, and to what extent and how often. I am here to say that that is no way to run a business. If all you care about is money, I can just about guarantee that no matter how much you have, you will never be happy… Did I mention I watched it grow from a three person company to a 40 million-dollar operation in about six years? In Crush It, Gary refers to something he calls “reactionary business.” What he’s talking about is having the ability to anticipate change and adapt. I’m not sure I would call that “reactionary.” I would call that “being proactive.” To me, “reactionary” was watching the flames get higher when things started to smoke and burn because the only solution “leadership” had was to throw on more coals. That was due to a couple of things 1) a president who didn’t want to listen to his employees and 2) a sheer lack of anticipating change and lack of planning for it. But there was another attitude problem that inevitably led to the company’s demise… arrogance. The owner had it in his head that if a customer was lost, there was always another one around the “virtual” corner. I think he ultimately felt that it didn’t matter if customers left unhappy because it was an online business. Wrong. There are only so many chances to reinvent yourself, and it’s much harder now than it was then. Those company doors closed in 2007, and Twitter was only a year old. If you want to start a business, have it be something that you want your name on. Be proud of it. That’s another thing Gary Vaynerchuk talks about: legacy. By the way, if you ever work somewhere at which the owner of the business isn’t willing to publicly admit ownership, let that be a warning to you. That is not a good sign.

OK. So. Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Crush It!: I say buy it if you’re just starting a business, and buy it if you’re a six-or-more-figure salaried CEO. Gary’s messages are pretty simple and straight forward: Care. Work your butt off. Listen. Adapt. Anticipate. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Build your personal brand. Care. He breaks it down much further, but I don’t need to repeat the entire book, as short and sweet as it is. His messages are in many ways, not new, and in fact, in some ways they are old-fashioned. So what? They work. My concern that I mentioned in my earlier post before I read the book was that it might be too schmaltzy. Too much of a “just believe in yourself”-type book. While there is some of that, he explains why he believes it is actually possible to follow your dreams at this point in time. Gary is a good coach. He doesn’t tell you how to do everything, but he gives recommendations on tools to use, strategies and approaches. He also talks about DNA and how it plays a part. I tend to think that many immigrants in general, have a much better idea about how to succeed than (non-immigrant) Americans. They tend not to take things for granted and they really know how to hustle. I realize that’s a sweeping generalization, but just look around you and see for yourself. I’ll be bold and make another sweeping generalization: Gary is from Belarus, and I don’t care who says what, but many of the folks from that part of the world are great mathematicians, some of the world’s greatest composers and musicians, scientists… and chess players. Gary is an excellent strategist. Just sayin’. Until next time, Creative Beasts… Seize the Prey! Or, as Gary says, “Crush it!”

Another link to check out: http://vaynermedia.com/

And to send you off, here’s one of my favorite songs ever (definitely a T-Haus theme song) as well as a bit o’ CreativeBeasts.com inspiration–Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s a Winner (and a random fan viddy):

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